The small cell market continues to outgrow its “small” nature with continued development across the space. The latest development is an agreement between two factions of the space: traditional small cells and Wi-Fi.
The Wireless Broadband Alliance, which is one of many industry associations focused on the Wi-Fi space, and the Small Cell Forum, also one of many looking after the interests of small cells, said they will work together to “integrate Wi-Fi hotspots and licensed small cells.” A noble task as the licensed/unlicensed spectrum issue is one that has often bedeviled those looking to integrate the two offerings.
The organizations said they will cooperate on initiatives designed to allow the two small cell technologies to work together. Those initiatives will include looking at how small cells could impact the WBA and GSMA’s Next Generation Hotspot initiative; sharing best practices for optimizing the user experience; and operator deployment strategies for Wi-Fi/small cell deployments. This last step is also expected to include looking at ways to bolster Wi-Fi services to support the offloading of traditional cellular traffic like voice and messaging services. Currently Wi-Fi is being looked at strictly as a way to offload data traffic in high usage areas.
“The days of Wi-Fi versus cellular are dead,” noted Gordon Mansfield, chairman of the Small Cell Forum, in a statement. “Both technologies are crucial for supporting the never ending growth in data traffic. In the long term, each technology alone cannot meet this challenge – success can only be achieved by aligning the two. Wi-Fi hotspots are proving a valuable tool for managing surging mobile data traffic. Small cells, which now outnumber macro-cells globally, represent the future of cellular as it strives to achieve new levels of coverage and capacity for all mobile devices. By bringing the two together, we can deliver a better experience for all users across all devices.”
The agreement follows a report released this week by Senza Fili Consulting that claims mobile operators that deploy both small cells and Wi-Fi can cut their wireless data per-bit costs up to two-thirds compared with macro-cell costs.
“By deploying LTE, 3G and Wi-Fi jointly as part of an integrated sub-layer of small cells, operators can meet their capacity targets faster, leverage their existing Wi-Fi footprint and significantly reduce their per-bit costs,” explained Monica Paolini, president of Senza Fili. “The business case for small cells can be challenging, especially for 3G. Adding Wi-Fi to small cells strengthens the business case.”
The report noted that the total cost of ownership for a small cell/Wi-Fi deployment was just 10% to 25% of that for a traditional macro deployment, with much larger cost savings related to operating expenses. In addition, the report claims that small cells allow operators to cut per-bit costs by at least half, and by up to one-third when combined with cellular and Wi-Fi.